Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Miracle Called Maca"Roni"

It was one year-ago this weekend when Macaroni or "Roni" for short, came into this world as a small kitten. What you must know is that for years, my daughter Cara has always wanted an orange kitty. So when their hearts collided last year ... it was love at first sight. What's even sweeter is Nolan is an animal lover so the idea of adopting a feline into their family was nothing shy of, well ... purr-fect! (smile)

From the time they brought Roni home, he had a rough go of it. He stayed sick ... and was weak, and just wasn't doing well at all. After much time and money invested in his health, they got the horrible news of a dreaded cat disease. To say that Roni fought for his life would be a BIG understatement. We cried over this baby kitty. We prayed for this baby kitty. We were just sick because of his suffering and yet, in our hearts, we felt hopeful of his slight chance for recovering.

Celebrating Roni's first birthday this weekend was so much more than the Weeks' clan coming together and singing happy birthday to one great cat. It was the fact that Roni was alive, in spite of the odds against him ... in spite of a dreaded disease that doesn't allow most of it's victims to live longer than a few weeks. You must know that for me, a whole year later, Roni's life was a tremendous reminder of two great truths about this God in whom I profess to believe:

1) He does answer prayer: God doesn't always answer the way we want Him to, but He does answer. I can't tell you how many of my animal loving family members and friends who also asked God to strengthen and spare the life of His furry creation. In this case, God nodded and brought healing.

2) God does care about the things I care about: I know some folks who absolutely HATE cats and would say that God could care less about them (oh, be still my heart). But what I do know, and what I am a concrete believer of, thanks in part to Roni ... that God cares a tremendous amount over EVERYTHING that I care about. Absolutely everything.

"Cast all your anxiety [troubles, cares, the things that burden you] on the Lord because He cares for you!" (1 Peter 5:7)

I believe with all my heart that the God of this Universe, the Creator and Sustainer of my life and yours, cares deeply about each one of us ... our lives ... and everything we care about.

He proved that to me through one scrawny orange kitty name Roni. He winked as He reminded me a whole year later so that I'd never forget it.

"O LORD [Covenant Maker/Promise Keeper God], what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? (Psalm 144:3)

He cares for you, friend ... He really, REALLY does.

"The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him." (Nahum 1:7)

Monday, March 16, 2009

M is for M O U T H

You can bet your bottom dollar that long before I put ink (or keys) to this blog page, I have been living and learning (sometimes wrestling) this topic out with the Lord. So, on this particular blog, I'm going to toss out a disclaimer and say that if you never struggle with the part of your body that sits on the lower part of your face, then by all means, click the red box in the top right corner.

However; if you're still reading, my guess is that you've found yourself in some hard places due to your mouth. Not just what you put in it, but what you allow to come out of it.

I think if we are to ever get a grip on our mouths, we're going to have to go a bit deeper ... down into the heart. "For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34b)
So, just how rotten is my heart ... is your heart? "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT)

If you've ever been on the receiving end of someone else's "run of the mouth" then you know how bad it is. If you've been the one where the mouth is open and "junk" flows out ... trust me, you know. The past few months have been a season where the Lord is continually chiseling away ... you guessed it, on my mouth. And much deeper and bigger than my mouth ... it's my heart.
Listen to these incredible challenges that focus on this very thing:

"Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing, I have resolved that my mouth will not sin." (Psalm 17:3)

"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Isaiah 29:13)

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)

The hard core stuff comes from the book of James. If you're still with me, get a load of this:

"If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless." (James 1:26, HCSB)

"With our tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brother, this should not be." (James 3:9-10)

Last week God showed me something pretty profound. He said, "Rhonda, part of the reason that you can't get control over what you are putting in your mouth is the fact that you aren't controlling what comes out of it." One word: Ouch.

Within 48 hours of this "ah ha moment" I had not only poked fun at a loved one and hurt their feelings ... but I snapped at a dear friend. I broke my number #1 rule ... and voiced my opinion where I hadn't been asked. I called someone "jerk" in traffic. I uttered some "not so kind" things about someone who was driving me nuts. I even voiced some negative frustrations to someone. All the while, the Lord kept whispering to me, "Please be quiet. Please don't. Please close your mouth." You could call me butter, cause I was on some kind of a roll!

And most recently, it was another spoonful of a bitter lesson learned as the toxic poison of man's heart oozed it's way out. In listening, God said, "Now you know what it sounds like. Now you hear how bad it hurts. Maybe, just maybe ... you will think before you speak."

The tongue has the power of life and death ... (Proverbs 18:21)

I've got a long way to go, friends. I peck on these keys as a very humble woman who wants her mouth to line up with the faith she professes. I want my words to point others to Christ ... not away from Him. I want what pours off my lips to reflect a heart that has truly been changed by the power of Christ.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. " (Psalm 19:14, NLT)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Growing Up ...

So, I've been studying and preparing some lessons for a class that I'm about to teach at my church on parenting. Let me say that those who are given the opportunity and privilege to teach a class aren't asked because they are so great or have it all together or know all the answers. In my case, the timing was right and I guess because I have two great kids, folks assumed I did something right. I take ZERO credit. In fact, I failed as a parent in so many ways while raising my children ... there's just not enough room here and I won't bore you with all the bloody details. What I can say is that, praise God, I've learned SO much while looking back on my parenting adventure that God has placed me in a position in which I can share with others.

But before I get totally side tracked and away from what's on my heart this morning, I need to stay focused and let my fingers do the talking.

I ran across this list of seven "marks" that our children are growing up and maturing intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. As I read the list, I thought, "The heck with parenting, this is a powerful list for EVERYONE ... with or without children." I am a firm believer in asking the hard questions, so this list hit me between the eyes long before I share them here.

So ... let's me and you take a little self "am I a big boy/girl" evaluation:

Answer the following questions, not as you WISH you were, but as you are. Remember, "as a man thinks in his heart, so he is."

Here we go:

Are you able to keep long-term commitments?

Are you unshaken by flattery or criticism?

Do you possess a spirit of humility?

Do you base decisions on character, not feelings?

Do you consistently express gratitude?

Do you prioritize others before yourself?

Do you seek wisdom before acting?

No doubt, I could have used this list while raising and training my daughters. Sometimes as parents, we do the best we can with what we have and end up missing the mark in crucial ways. As I read over this list of seven powerful challenges, the Lord said to ME that I need to do my own check list! I hate when He does that -- it's always easier to challenge others than to have to take a look within.

As parents, we can never expect our kids to be something that we are not.

As people, God calls us to a higher ... better way of living.

Sometimes the better way always starts with a look within because who we are always has a way of oozing out. I want to be better, don't you? Whether raising kids or God raising us up ... it's time to grow up!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hidden Within the Pages of Esther ...

For the past six weeks or so, I've been journeying through Beth Moore's newest Bible study, "It's Tough Being a Woman" built around the 10 chapters of the Book of Esther.

I have to tell you that I've known of Esther's story ... even read the book several times over the past 20 years. I've heard sermon's revolved around it, and talks given on it. But never have I taken a daily journey of digging the book apart, verse by verse. And I'll just tell ya ... never did I think there would be so much tucked within these pages that had to do with Rhonda Weeks. Boy, was I wrong!

I'm hoping to entice you enough that you'll want to read it and study it for yourself, so here's just a few life lessons that are carved into my heart now:

There is no place God can't go with a willing vessel.

Nothing happens in my life by mere chance.

God wants me to be a dangerous woman for His Kingdom.

God won't fulfill my destiny without me.

God is attracted to weakness; It leaves more room for His strength.

God wants me to forget pride and position = leads to nowhere.

To obey is always better than sacrifice.

I'm never more prone to attack than when God has taken me out, but I'm not where I'm going yet.

The best thing I can do to drive a mean person crazy is be nice!

One of the most important parts of my destiny is transparency.

It will often be crisis that God will use to pivot my direction.

Courage comes from a heart that is convinced it is loved.

I will never fulfill my God-given destiny if I straddle the fence.

The longer God is taking the more He is working.

Battles that really matter aren't won in a day.

God is never inactive in the wait.

Small seeds of pride, ambition and prejudice can grow into something appalling.

We can base inappropriate presumptions primarily on self-consumed thoughts.

Bent minds don't think straight.

Satan promises life and delivers death.

One of the things God wants to withhold from my life is havoc from self-choices.

So, I've only studied through the sixth chapter, but that's just a speck of the truth that's pounded in this head and heart. The real challenge with God's Word isn't just to know it ... but to live it. If all I do is study and know the Truth but don't allow God to change me, then I believe I've missed the heart of God all together.

The Book of Esther isn't just about a Queen saving her people. The providence of God weaves through the entire 10 chapters. God shows His heart ... God shows His power. God shows how He works and moves, even when folks don't acknowledge that it's Him.

What's so neat to me is that God's name isn't mentioned in the Book of Esther ... nothing penned with His name on it; and yet His heart and His power are all over it. In the midst of God being on it ... you and I just might find ourselves in it.